Whistling Straits Golf Course

01
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Touring the Straits Course, Starting at No. 1

The green and surrounder bunkers and rough on the 1st hole at Whistling Straits
The first hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America/Getty Images

Whistling Straits is a golf course complex situated next to Lake Michigan just north of Sheboygan, Wisc. There are two 18-hole courses at Whistling Straits, both designed by Pete Dye. One is the Irish Course. The much more famous is the Straits Course, and the Straits Course is the one featured in this photo gallery.

Whistling Straits has been the site of PGA Championships, the U.S. Senior Open, and is scheduled to host the 2020 Ryder Cup. It opened only in 1998, but quickly became one of the most highly regarded courses in America. Stuart Appleby described the Straits Course as having "a combination of modern-day length and tightness in a British Open style, with U.S. Open-style rough."

Vijay Singh was the first major champion at Whistling Straits, winning the 2004 PGA Championship.

Whistling Straits is part of The American Club Resort, whose official Web site is at destinationkohler.com. The course is open to the public.

Hole No. 1

  • Name of hole: Outward Bound
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 408 (Note: Yardages used in this gallery are those that were in play at the 2010 PGA Championship)

The Whistling Straits Web site describes the Straits Course this way: "Open, rugged and windswept terrain defines the walking-only, links-style Straits Course sculpted along two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline."

That rugged terrain was fashioned by man, however. Before the land was acquired to be transformed into a links-looking golf course, it was pretty flat and featureless. The land was an airfield once upon a time.

02
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Whistling Straits No. 2

The second hole at Whistling Straits
The view from the teeing ground on the No. 2 hole of the Straits Course. David Cannon/Getty Images

Hole No. 2

  • Name of hole: Cross Country
  • Par: 5
  • Yards: 593

The Straits Course is built to play firm and fast, and the fescue grass - which grows tall in the rough and on the outer boundaries around and between holes - adds to the links look and feel.

03
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Whistling Straits No. 3

Whistling Straits Hole 3
The third hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. David Cannon / Getty Images

Hole No. 3

  • Name of hole: O'Man
  • Par: 3
  • Yards: 181

Herb Kohler, who made a lot of money in the world of plumbing fixtures and engines (as owner of The Kohler Co.), is the money man behind Whistling Straits. Along with the nearby Blackwolf Run, Whistling Straits is part of The American Club Resort. Resort guests get dibs on playing times, but Whistling Straits is open to the public. You can call and ask for a tee time.

04
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Whistling Straits No. 4

Whistling Straits Hole 4
The 4th hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. David Cannon / Getty Images

Hole No. 4

  • Name of hole: Glory
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 493

Architect Pete Dye is the designer behind both courses at Whistling Straits, the Straits Course pictured in this gallery along with the Irish Course. The Straits Course opened for play in 1998 and a mere six years later hosted its first major, the 2004 PGA Championship.

05
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Whistling Straits No. 5

Whistling Straits Hole 5
The fifth hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. David Cannon / Getty Images

Hole No. 5

  • Name of hole: Snake
  • Par: 5
  • Yards: 598

The fifth hole is named "Snake" because is it S-shaped, and it provides a good example of the unorthodox sitelines around Whistling Straits. The course is very challenging for players, but the visuals around the course might be even tougher.

Those odd-looking angles and other visual tricks that designer Pete Dye employed on the Straits Course convinced some observers prior to the 2004 PGA Championship that the winning score in that major might be double-digits over par.

06
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Whistling Straits No. 6

Whistling Straits Hole 6
The sixth hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 6

  • Name of hole: Gremlin's Ear
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 355

Prior to the 2004 PGA Championship, Mark Calcavecchia - discussing the toughness of Whistling Straits - predicted to Golf World magazine, "It's going to be six-hour rounds and train wrecks all over the place."

At that time, the Straits Course was the longest track ever played in a major. Some suggested it might be the toughest course ever played in a major. But course designer Pete Dye knew that once players got accustomed the course's visual tricks - once they picked up the correct sightlines and angles of attack - they'd be fine. Dye predicted a winning score of 12-under for the 2004 PGA Championship. Vijay Singh, the winner, didn't quite get there, but he did finish at 8-under.

07
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Whistling Straits No. 7

Anirban Lahiri of India hits his tee shot on the seventh hole during the final round of the 2015 PGA Championship
Anirban Lahiri tees off on the par-3 No. 7 hole at Whistling Straits during the 2015 PGA Championship. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Hole No. 7

  • Name of hole: Shipwreck
  • Par: 3
  • Yards: 221

The seventh hole is named "Shipwreck," and with the Lake Michigan waves crashing against rocks below, it's not hard to understand why. Several greens around the Straits Course are build to mimic cliffs - are designed to appear as if they are ledges that drop off into the "sea."

08
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Whistling Straits No. 8

Whistling Straits Hole 8
The 8th hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 8

  • Name of hole: On the Rocks
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 507

Those bunkers up the left side of the hole are a reminder that there are nearly 1,000 bunkers on the Straits Course. You read that right. Prior to the 2010 PGA Championship, Golf Digest's architecture beat writer, Ron Whitten, walked the course along with a helper and counted every sand bunker. That's something nobody had bothered to do before.

And they came up with a count of 967 bunkers. Don't be too alarmed - only a much smaller number are actually in play. Whitten wrote than only about 100 of the bunkers would be raked for the 2010 PGA, and only around 50 would actually be in play for the pros. (More than that are in play for the rest of us, because our misses are bigger.)

09
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Whistling Straits No. 9

Whistling Straits Hole 9
The ninth hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 9

  • Name of hole: Down and Dirty
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 449

At the 2010 PGA Championship, the front nine at Whistling Straits (Straits Course) played to a par of 36 and a yardage of 3,805.

There aren't many trees that affect play around the Straits Course, but one on No. 9 can. A big tree menaces approaches that drive too far to the right. There's a creek that runs through the course, too, called Seven Mile Creek. It comes into play on No. 9 along the right side of the fairway.

10
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Whistling Straits No. 10

Whistling Straits Hole 10
The 10th hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 10

  • Name of hole: Voyageur
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 361

The back nine of the Straits Course begins with this par-4, the shortest par-4 on the course. This hole curves back to the left, meaning the straight shot from tee-to-green is less than the full length. Some players might try to drive it, but that's very risky with deep bunkers guarding the green.

11
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Whistling Straits No. 11

Whistling Straits Hole 11
The 11th hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 11

  • Name of hole: Sand Box
  • Par: 5
  • Yards: 618

Yes, those are sheep in the image above. A flock of sheep roam freely around the Straits Course (although not during tournament play). It's a feature of Whistling Straits that harkens back to older times on Scottish links courses, where sometimes sheep were the only "lawnmowers" used.

The sheep at Whistling Straits are Scottish Blackface.

12
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Whistling Straits No. 12

Whistling Straits Hole 12
The 12th hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 12

  • Name of hole: Pop Up
  • Par: 3
  • Yards: 143

This green "pops up" around the surrounding terrain, falling off into Lake Michigan on two sides. The tee shot is downhill, and it's easy to play too deep into the green and trundle off into back bunkers.

13
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Whistling Straits No. 13

Whistling Straits Hole 13
The 13th hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 13

  • Name of hole: Cliff Hanger
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 404

One of several "cliffhanger" greens around Whistling Straits, this is the one that actually gets the name Cliff Hanger. The fall-off beyond the right side of the green is steep down to Lake Michigan.

14
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Whistling Straits No. 14

Whistling Straits Hole 14
The 14th hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 14

  • Name of hole: Widow's Watch
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 373

The Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada has a long history of men going out to "sea" - out onto the lakes - to make their living as fishermen. A "widow's watch" is the term applied to a location - typically a window of a lakeside home - where such a man's wife would sit and watch for his return. Fishing - whether on the open seas or on the Great Lakes such as Lake Michigan, which is the backdrop for Whistling Straits' No. 14 hole - has always been a dangerous profession.

15
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Whistling Straits No. 15

Whistling Straits Hole 15
The 15th hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 15

  • Name of hole: Grand Strand
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 518

First the fairway turns right, then it turns back to the left, one of many holes around Whistling Straits where the angles of play appear visually intimidating.

16
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Whistling Straits No. 16

Whistling Straits Hole 16
The 16th hole of the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. PGA of America / Getty Images

Hole No. 16

  • Name of hole: Endless Bite
  • Par: 5
  • Yards: 569

This par-5 named "Endless Bite" is actually the shortest five-par on the Straits Course. The fairway drops off all down its left side toward Lake Michigan, with tall fescue and plenty of sand. But the landing area is pinched on the right by by the same.

17
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Whistling Straits No. 17

The 249 yards par 3, 17th hole 'Pinched Nerve' on the Whistling Straits Course
Looking to the green on the Straits Course's No. 17 hole. David Cannon/Getty Images

Hole No. 17

  • Name of hole: Pinched Nerve
  • Par: 3
  • Yards: 223

Named "Pinched Nerve," and you might experience frayed nerves playing this intimidating hole. Shots long or left might find Lake Michigan, if they don't find sand bunkers that sit 20 feet below the green surface. Tee shots drifting right encounter more bunkers on a steep hillside. A large dune jutting into the front right of the green is intimidating, and can stop short balls.

18
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Whistling Straits No. 18

The 520 yards par 4, 18th hole named Dyeabolical on the Whistling Straits golf course
Approaching the 18th green on the Straits Course. David Cannon/Getty Images

Hole No. 18

  • Name of hole: Dyeabolical
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 500

The greens at Whistling Straits are very big and can present putts of lengths typically only found on links courses (and maybe ones with double greens).

Short-game guru Dave Pelz was demonstrating how long putts can be on the Straits Course for the Golf Channel, prior to the start of the 2004 PGA Championship. Pelz set up at the front of the 18th green and struck a ball toward a back pin placement.

And the ball fell into the cup after traveling around 210 feet. The putt was so far that Pelz wasn't even able to see the ball find the cup. It is believed to be the longest made putt ever caught on video.

In honor of course architect Pete Dye, this hole is named "Dyeabolical." It's a 500-yard finishing par-4. The back nine checks in at a par of 36 and a yardage of 3,709. For the 2010 PGA Championship, Whistling Straits was set up to play 7,514 yards and to a par of 72.